Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lost and Found

I am not a jewelry person. I can't even wear my wedding ring at night. Having grown up a tom boy, it just feels foreign to put on rings, earrings or especially necklaces.

My sweet husband, however, comes from a family of jewelry wearing women: they are Southern, they are beautiful, and they accessorize brilliantly. Consequently, I really tried for a few years, but just couldn't get the hang of it.

On one occasion, my sweetheart bought me a beautiful pearl ring (pearls are the one gem I do love). Still, the three different "golds" and the leaf design just didn't seem quite like "me." You can imagine his dismay at my complete feminine dysfunction.

Finally, after years of frustrating gift giving attempts, my patient husband lovingly presented to me the most perfect piece of sterling silver, ever. It was an anniversary gift, purchased on the streets of Philadelphia during a day trip of sight-seeing with our out-of-town family. I had stayed behind with my nursing newborn, allowing John the freedom to shop all day without me (with the added benefit of my sister's discerning eye!)

I still remember exactly where we were, out on the back porch of our 1905 Dutch Colonial there on Shadeland Ave. in Drexel Hill, when he pulled it out of his pocket. The night was perfect. Clear, balmy. The stars were twinkling. The children were in bed. All was calm. Our extended family happily chatting inside. He held a black velvet pouch. I started to panic. My thoughts were: "Oh no! not jewelry! What will I say? How will I respond? Can I fake it? Will I hurt his feelings?" But then, I saw it.

The most perfect ring every crafted; for me, that is. A simple sterling silver masterpiece. It actually consisted of three rings: One larger in the middle, two smaller bands above and below. And best of all, they were held together with another small band going vertically in the back (making them comfortable and keeping the three bands together as one). I couldn't believe it. I think I cried. I couldn't hug him enough. It was so thoughtful, so loving AND so perfect all at once.

It sounds silly I guess, to be so happy about a piece of jewelry; something so flat and empty. But to me, it symbolized a love so kind, so pure, so patient and long-suffering. A love that had endured countless rejections, yet kept trying to find that perfect little something. And now he had found it. Wow, what a guy.

As you might imagine, I am simple when it comes to clothes also. I have a few "staples" and I wear these items over and over again. Well, this perfect ring became my jewelry staple. It was so comfortable, I wore it every day, sometimes I even slept with it on!! It went with everything. I could dress it up or down. But I always knew that no matter what I was wearing, no matter what my mood, it would always just "fit."

As I pondered this, I realized how this circular little ring symbolized our marriage. Our temple ceremony had been simple, chaste, eternal. We are not a flashy "power" couple, but we are sturdy, comfortable, and bound together forever as one. Since I wore the ring so often, people assumed it was my wedding ring; and I guess for all intents and purposes, it was.

Seven years later we moved to Utah. We lived with John's wonderful parents for six months while waiting for our new home to be built.

We were excited about our new house, but were nervous about the price tag. We had spent years getting totally out of debt, except for a modest mortgage. Going to a bigger, new home would put us back into a hefty debt situation. It seemed worth it, but we couldn't shake the nagging feeling that it just wasn't right.

We decided to move in anyway. We loved the neighbors, the location, the 3 laundries, the 7 bathrooms, the mud room, the stage, the 3 car garage, the view and so on. There was nothing NOT to love. It was perfect! except for one thing.

Slowly, our once idyllic marriage began to change. There was a lot more stress. Little disagreements about paint color, tile, how much to spend on the yard, etc. crept into our conversations. The stress could be felt more and more, even by the children.

About this time, something else happened. Since I often remove earrings wherever I sit to read and always set rings on the kitchen window sill to wash dishes, I often lose track of them. This practice isn't too dangerous because most of my "jewelry" is from Walmart and I don't mind losing it for a few days now and then. However, the one perfect ring was different. I always kept track of that. I made a distinct effort to make sure I knew where it was at all times, even when I took it off.

Over time, however, I became so completely overwhelmed with maintaining our huge home and huge family that I did lose track of that ring. One day when I wanted it, it just couldn't be found in any of my usual spots. At first I didn't really panic because I assumed that it would just show up in the normal course of life, but after four years of looking, I had to concede that it truly must be lost.

I tired not to reveal my feelings. I wanted to hide how profoundly sad I was, how responsible I felt for the loss. I didn't want my husband to even know I'd lost such a special thing. When he finally found out, I tried to downplay the loss and told him I'd replace it. I hunted all over to find one like it. I was sure they had been mass produced and were probably everywhere, but I was wrong. I couldn't find anything like it at all. Not in Utah, not anywhere else we traveled either, not even back East.

In desperation, I went to a popular silver store in the mall. I found three separate rings which somewhat resembled the one, but I had to wear them all together and they were not all uniform sizes. This was uncomfortable and annoying. Often one would just fall right off my finger. I could never keep them altogether when not being worn. I had to go searching every time I wanted to wear them. In the end, my baby took one off during church and flung it. Weeks of looking turned up nothing.

Again the metaphor was clear. I had allowed our marriage, once simple and "just right" to become "lost." It had become a victim of our new and improved lifestyle. Where was the love? The long-suffering? The benefit of the doubt? It was lost, somewhere in the never-ending piles of sample paint cards from Home Depot.

Although we were "happy" and getting by, the deeper joy and peace that comes from truly "living within your means" was missing from our life.

Something had to change, we both knew it. We felt compelled to get out of debt as quickly as possible. We knew this meant selling our dream home (during a recession!) and finding a simpler place to live where we could afford some real joy.

It was not an easy or fast process. It took over a year to find buyers and another suitable place to live. However, with the Lord's help, we were able to do both after much difficulty and sacrifice.

We moved into our "new" home seven months ago. It has been an adjustment to go back to fewer bathrooms and only one laundry, but a happy adjustment. What we have lost is nothing compared to what we have found. The peace, love, and mutual respect has returned to our lives. The crazy "busy-ness" has tempered. The stress has all but melted away. And although we miss our sweet neighborhood friends terribly, still, we have greater peace.

We live in closer quarters now, but rejoice to do so. I can hear my teenage girls giggling just down the hall (ALL NIGHT LONG!). Our single story family room is "just right" for cozy snuggling in front of the real wood burning fireplace. Our mature yard is a jungle for toddler explorers and mud pie makers. Our shrunken square footage has required me to purge much of our over-sized furniture, leaving only the most essential pieces.

And our marriage? Wow. It's just like the old days, only better. Not only do we share love and peace again, but we appreciate it too. We know what was lost, and has been found.

The other day, I was cleaning out some dresser drawers that hadn't been packed up for our move. They had been taken from one house to the next with all the contents completely intact. I discovered many outdated clothing items and was making quite a pile for DI when I came across a small box. Hmm. I'd never seen it before, it looked like trash. I impulsively began to to toss it toward the garbage. But suddenly, I hesitated. What if there were something inside? I decided to check. As I opened the smashed little box, tears sprang to my eyes. There it was, the perfect ring. I couldn't believe it. It had been with me all the time, perhaps squirreled away by a child at play. All the sad, hard years, it had been with me, just hidden away, buried deep inside; waiting to be found again, when I was less preoccupied and ready to appreciate it's sturdy, simple, eternal beauty once again.

I kneeled down in thanks and poured out my simple prayer to God. I thanked Him for giving us the experience of feeling lost, of allowing us to be found, of healing our hearts, healing our family. But mostly I thanked Him for teaching me so profoundly that He, like my perfect ring, has really been with us all the time. When I was ready to turn my life back over to Him, I "found" Him ready and waiting.

And the ring? I wear it almost everyday. The perfect reminder of my perfect husband and my perfect Father in Heaven who's perfect love has found me once again.

Luke 15: 8-10

8 ¶ Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one apiece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the aangels of God over one bsinner that repenteth.


Mary Ann said...

That's one more thing you and I have in common, Stacey. I was not into jewelry when I married Matthew. But, since then, I've learned that I just hadn't seen the right design yet.

I'm so glad the ring turned up and that it means so much to you.

sara jensen said...

I can't believe how much I love this story (and how how emotional I got reading it); What a beautiful metaphor. I love you!

Andrew said...

I've never been much a blog reader (let alone a commenter of blogs), but I have to say your posts are excellent. Very insightful - and I didn't know you were such a talented writer.

Handsfullmom said...

What a great story, both about the ring and your marriage.

Steffani said...

I love that! You are amazing, Stacey. Steffani

river song said...

oh, wow! powerful, beautiful, evocative and all about Divine faithfulness and provision--along a considerable dollop of human faithfulness, too. I love the way you conclude your blogs with scripture!

BTW, Sara and I were next door neighbors in San Diego and I came over here from her blog. She is awesome!

Stacey Keller Thompson said...

riversong, thanks! That is awesome. Sara is one of my heroes, I'm glad you know her!